An allotment that helped feed hundreds struggling with the cost of living, but was destroyed by vandals, is now the subject of a police investigation.
Carly Burd, 43, from Harlow in Essex, transformed her garden to grow organic fruit and vegetables as part of her “A Meal on Me With Love” initiative but was “heartbroken” to discover her hard work destroyed when five kilograms of salt was thrown on the soil.
Officers from Essex Police have opened an investigation to find the culprits and have asked anyone with information to come forward.
A fundraiser set up in the wake of the incident has smashed its £4,000 target and has now raised almost a quarter of a million pounds.
Ms Burd said the ordeal, which was reported to police on Wednesday, has been “heart-wrenching”.
“What made it worse is that yesterday, the children that helped me plant it actually turned up, and it just broke me,” she said.
“They were so lovely they said ‘it’s okay, we can replant it’.
“They’ve worked so hard. They’ve put the effort in and we’re trying to make a change – it’s upsetting.”
The project began when Ms Burd, who lives with multiple sclerosis and lupus, went without heating last year – and felt compelled to help those in her community in a similar position.
Appeal to the vandals
The keen gardener said she is “really looking forward” to repairing her allotment and feels that doing so “gives me the opportunity to support other charities in my area”.
Surprised by the incident, Ms Burd said that she has “never felt such hate”, but urged the culprits to contact her.
“I’ve never felt such hate. I get on with everyone in my community,” she said.
“I want to say to whoever did it, I’m here if you want to talk to me. No aggression intended, that’s not my style.
“It won’t leave my lips and it won’t go out to anyone, but come and talk to me.”
While she struggles to understand why the incident happened, she hopes to support the person who vandalised her allotment.
“I’m not a threat to anyone – I’ll be there and support you and I’ll do everything I can to support you,” she added.
“I can’t understand why somebody would do something so hurtful, but I’m here for a chat.”
Salting ’caused real harm’
The incident is understood to have taken place between 2pm on 7 April and 9am on 8 April.
Chief Inspector Paul Austin, district commander for Harlow, issued an appeal for witnesses and anyone with CCTV or doorbell footage of the incident to come forward.
“Carly is naturally devastated about this mindless act, which has caused real harm to her efforts to help those most in need in Harlow,” he said.
“However, it is striking how determined she is to ensure this act does not stop her good work.
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“The support she has received both here in the community and from across the country has been truly heart-warming.
“We take all matters of criminal damage seriously and are conducting a thorough investigation.
“We need anyone who may have information about this incident to come forward, your reports to us do matter and make a huge difference.”
Gary Lineker and a BBC dragon donate
Ms Burd posted a TikTok after the salting, which quickly went viral and garnered the attention of people across the country – including Gary Lineker.
The Match Of The Day host tweeted, “Why would you ever do something like that?” alongside the video of Ms Burd in tears at her allotment.
A £500 donation under his name then popped up on her page.
Entrepreneur and BBC Dragon Steven Bartlett also donated £2,000, while celebrity DIY-expert Nick Knowles tweeted his support.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Ms Burd said.
“I took a picture [of the then top donation] just because it said Gary Lineker… I couldn’t believe it, I was over the moon.”